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Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Art Of Escaping A Room

I love most of my clients.  Really I do.  And there are some that I'd talk to all day.  But there are others that I just can't seem to get away from.  It has nothing to do with me not liking them, but the fact that some won't seem to shut up.

This is actually a real balancing act that us vets and our staff have to get good at. On one hand we want to be personable and open, willing to chit-chat to develop that relationship and rapport with our clients.  We also want to make sure we answer any questions they have and make sure we get a detailed history on their pet's health.  On the other hand we really don't want to hear someone's life story or about their sister's cousin-in-law's divorce.  When you see 20-30 patients in a day you can't afford to spend a half-hour or more talking to a single client.  It seems to always happen when all of the exam rooms are full and people are waiting in the lobby.  I'll get really backed up if I'm the only doctor on duty.

So how do you get out of the room with a very talkative client?  Very carefully.

First you have to make sure that they really are re-hashing things you've already covered or are just rambling.  You never want to leave a room if there are still important and relevant things to discuss.  When I want to make an exit I'll try to sum up what we're doing or state that they can go up front to check out.  If that doesn't work I'll walk to the door and put my hand on the doorknob, sometimes turning it and opening the door slightly.  Unfortunately some people don't get that hint and I end up being stuck with no real way out.

That's where it pays to have assistance.  And here's where I let you in on a little secret.  My staff is trained so that if we're getting backed up and it seems like me or another doctor is trapped in a room, they'll come in and say "Doctor, your next patient is here," or, "Doctor, we need you in the back for something."  Most of the time this allows me to politely make my escape within a minute or so, if not immediately.  If I know that a client is normally very talkative and I don't want to spend the next hour in the room, I'll tell my staff to come get me after a certain period of time (usually 10-15 minutes).

Is this unfair to the client?  I certainly don't think so.  At my clinic we really try to emphasize that relationship with each client and we give them all of the attention we can.  I stress to my clients and my staff that I never want anyone leaving with unanswered questions.  But at the same time we have to respect the next client on the schedule, or keep in mind that we have sick patients or surgeries that a doctor should attend to.  We're not going to be an effective medical team and not going to give good client service if we spend too much time with a given pet owner.  So from time to time we have to do things to allow us to move on to the next thing.

For any pet owners reading this, watch for those signals.  Hopefully your vet is friendly and addresses all of your questions.  But if they have their hand on the doorknob or an assistant comes in the room needing the doctor elsewhere, that's probably the signal that it's time to go check out.